An eerie silence fell upon the large blue-cladded crowd. They all stared at the giant screen in disbelief as the map of their great nation slowly turned red. Shortly after, their candidate conceded defeat and the night was over. Winning over 270 electoral college votes, Donald J. Trump was now president of the United States of America. America had not only chosen Republican ideas of small-government and social conservatism over Democratic hawkishness and social welfare; they had chosen Donald Trump’s explosive and irreverent persona over the traditional political archetype. The new president touted the birth of a new political revolution, much in line with Reagan-era policies, and an alternative to the rise of the radical left. The four years that followed are now history, and America must choose again.
The group for whom the choice will be hardest is that of the true conservatives. Making up 35% of the American voting population, they represent the single largest electoral group by ideology, and their choice could make or break Trump’s reelection hopes. Traditionally associated with the Republican party, many have expressed a distaste for Trump’s leadership and his repeated assault against the political traditions of the state and party. Others now wonder if the image of conservatism will be forever tainted by the last four years of governance, and if the American right can ever return to form. Thus, with the election fast approaching, it is only natural to analyze this growing discontent, and help chart a viable alternative that rescues western conservatism from the grasp of the Trump era.
The state of the right
As of November 2020, the state of the American right is radically different to that of four years ago. The US house of representatives is back under Democratic control, putting a block to Trump’s agenda, who barely holds the Republican majority in the senate. The Republican party itself has also changed radically. Classical consensus builders are now either dead or sidelined, the Tea Party has ceased to be an extremist minority, now dictating the economic policy of the party as a whole, and Trump’s family seems to have a monopoly over the ideological direction of the Republican platform. This should, and most likely does, distress conservatives throughout the country, that value the prosperous traditions of the conservative establishment as quintessential tenants of democracy.
Incidentally, a conservative sees his surroundings not with the skepticism of the eternally discontent, but rather the optimism and cautiousness of the grateful. Grateful for the legacy of his ancestors, he understands the need for societal and corporate hierarchies of authority- he advocates for law and order. However, he also sees positively that the weak and old are protected, women and minorities included and empowered. In fact, as foreign as it may seem to many that gather their thoughts on conservatism from hostile media, European conservatives defend the welfare state as a staple of western culture, and many of their American counterparts have worked to increase healthcare coverage for many citizens. This runs contrary to this new wave of Trump-fueled movements that spout untenable corporativism and nativism, betraying the moderate roots of Christian-democratic conservatism. As Lord Salisbury very eloquently phrased long ago: “Hostility to radicalism, incessant, implacable hostility, is the essential definition of Conservatism”. Thus, Trump is not by definition a conservative, but rather a reactionary. He holds up the bible as a sign of his devotion to god and traditional values, yet lets himself be embroiled in sexual scandals with porn-stars and fails to actively defend religious freedoms of Jews and Muslims in his land. He claims to want to reclaim America’s position in the world stage, yet devolves into isolationist policies that betray the Reagan legacy that made America the vanquisher of tyranny.
Even on the other side of the pond the effects of Trump’s decision-making style and ideological shallowness are being felt. Emboldened by his rise, far-right elements of the European political world, dormant until recently, placated by moderate sectors that ensured that they remained marginal, now see a golden age. From putting the European Union in question, to inflating the fears of social conflict along racial and religious lines, the us versus them mentality is back. However, not all the blame can be placed on Trump’s influence, as the moderate left has also faltered in their duty to keep radical socialism at bay, driving many to more radical right-wing alternatives to their rise. That, unfortunately, remains a topic to be discussed at length elsewhere.
A future without Trump?
Saving political Conservatism from the death of the Trump era will be no enviable task.
Two main challenges present themselves: regaining the center, and winning the youth. The first will prove relatively easy for European center-right parties, given that they still maintain strong moderate sectors, ready to pick up the slack from an inevitably faltering far-right that will be forced to retreat as soon as the electorate realizes the future lies in moderation. On the other hand, American Republicans, as proven by the nauseating 2020 republican national convention, have deeply integrated “Trumpism” into their ideological rhetoric. Dissociation will have to come at the hands of an unseemly coalition of young, driven conservatives and old classical conservatives at odds with Trump’s polarizing effect on society. This leads us straight to the second solution, because, even though Trump and his supporters have corrupted the Republican party, they will eventually have to be phased out by a new generation.
So, what will this new conservative youth look like? The danger remains that Trump’s influence will create a conflictive youth that identify as conservatives merely as a form of active opposition to the rise of radical left-wing movements within their countries. Alarmingly, this seems to be becoming a reality across a majority of college campuses in the US, as many young people grow tired of seeing dissenting ideas suppressed and history rewritten. On the contrary, what is needed is a generation of conservatives that looks to build compromise with moderate sectors of the political spectrum in the stark belief that prosperous and successful political systems are only maintained in the middle ground, rejecting both the absolutism of the new-left’s censoring moral compass and the absurd notion that returning to ancient modes of society where large swaths of the population are belittled and subordinate to the will of a few will return America and Europe to its rightfully earned glory. Only when right-wing youth organizations accept this reality will conservatives harness the true power of their ideology, inevitably leading them to electoral victory.
Thus, next week, as American conservatives ponder the direction of their vote, many will come to the realization that they can no longer be complicit to the uprooting of the conservative political tradition that millions should be proud to call their own. Biden is not a perfect alternative, as his moderate stances are slowly being eroded by the most radical wing of his party, but perhaps that very threat is the reason his candidature should be supported. It is now time, openly, and without fear of betraying their moral values, for conservatives to vote Trump out of the office of the presidency, and help bring the party of Lincoln back where it belongs, helping to unite America. Now, more than ever, moderation and the middle way are the paths forward, just like my grandfather used to say.
“Por el caminito del medio”
-Herr. Dr. Francisco Márquez Archilla